The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office is searching for Explorers.
The department is reviving its dormant Explorers program, which is conducted under the auspices of the Boy Scouts.
The sheriff’s department had Explorers Post 96 active until about eight years ago, and it is now trying to reactivate it, ECSO Sgt. Ramsey Mannon said.
“It’s a leadership program that teaches moral leadership as well as tells about the job,” he said. “We hope it will impact them in a positive way.”
Said Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said offering the Explorers program is a way to give teens a more constructive outlet.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Our job is preventing crime as well as enforcing the law after it happens. We’ve got to do everything we can to keep our kids out of here (the jail.)”
The Explorers program is for teenagers, and Mannon said they are looking for those 14 years old or those who have completed the eighth grade to those who are 20 years old. Wanting to be a law enforcement officer in the future isn’t a prerequisite for being an Explorer.
“We’ve had kids who had no desire to be a cop,” Mannon said. “They were able to be part of the group in a safe environment.”
The average post size is about 20 Explorers, and Mannon said it is an ongoing recruiting process.
“We don’t want to turn away anybody,” he said, though they cannot accept anyone with a felony on their record.
The Explorers will train on every aspect of the job, according to Mannon, from polishing their shoes to investigating car crashes to searching for missing people and objects. In years past, the forensics part of the training, such as dusting for fingerprints, was some of the most enjoyable aspects, he said.
Explorers between the ages of 16 and 20 may get to go on ride-alongs with deputies, but they will not carry firearms or batons.
In years past, the deputies staged wrecked vehicles at the intersection of Highways 21 and 275, with Explorers investigating the faux accident and writing accident reports of their inspections. Mannon wants to set up that scenario for the next crew of Explorers.
“Rain or shine, we want to give them the real deal,” he said.
It’s not just law enforcement that’s a part of the instruction, Mannon said. Explorers also will be taught courtroom demeanor.
“Some of the judges I talked to are excited about doing things with the kids,” he said.
The national Explorers hold a convention every two years in Fort Collins, Colo., with competitions in such things as traffic stops, searches and crime prevention techniques. There is also a mock trial competition, and Mannon has spoken with state court Judge Ronnie Thompson about helping with that.
The sheriff’s office has designed a badge for the Explorers, and Mannon hopes to have the first meeting in early September.
“Right now, we are in the recruitment stage to get deputies to be committed to the program and to be committed to the teaching,” he said.
Deputies will act as advisors and conduct the classes and training, but the Explorers are in charge of their own meetings and will run the program, even learning Robert’s Rules of Order. They will have a list of training options and will choose which training they want.
Explorers members also will have a uniform, and the sheriff’s office will help pay for those. They also are seeking sponsorships to defray those expenses.
Scholarships for post-secondary education also are part of the program, with the national Explorers handing out awards ranging from $500 to $1,000.
“It’s a good program,” Mannon said. “We’re hoping on this go-round to get the parents involved and stay involved.”
Once the program is established, the Explorers are scheduled to meet Thursday nights from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the ECSO’s training room. For more information, call Sgt. Mannon at 754-8166.